Seeing as my younger daughter’s school has arranged Parents evening for the 14th February my hopes for a romantic meal will probably be dashed. Instead of a lovely meal, a glass of Prosecco and an early night I shall be hurtling around a school hall for the annual teacher parent speed dating extravaganza. Just as the person across the table gets to the interesting bit, a bell goes and you have to move on to the next date and begin the pleasantries all over again.
A typical parents evening.
Bell rings, move to new table, sit down. Shake hands, elbow teen to make eye contact with the teacher, brief run down of the GCSE course, where your child should be, just about to discuss their individual progress, bell rings, off we go to another appointment. This happens eight or nine times, walk down the corridor, you get in the car, try to discuss any issues raised, teen sulks all the way home.
So in order to make me feel like I wasn’t missing out on Valentines day completely, at the weekend I baked M and I a Valentines day cake. A cake with a hidden surprise inside was something I’ve been wanting to try for ages and now was my chance.
The recipe and method are surprisingly simple. I took my cue and method from a post by Jules at Butcher, Baker but used my own recipes, as I have go to cake recipe that works really well.
Pink batter mix
2 eggs weighed
same weight as eggs in SR flour
same weight as eggs in butter or Stork
same weight as eggs in caster sugar
1 1/2 tbsp milk
1 tube pink Dr Oetker gel colouring
- Pre heat your oven to 190 c
- Line a 6″ square cake tin with baking parchment.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
- Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Fold in the flour gently.
- Stir in the pink gel colouring and milk to slacken the mixture.
- Spoon into the tin.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
- Leave to cool completely.
- When cool take a heart shaped cutter and cut out hearts. They need to have the tops and bottoms trimmed. You need enough hearts to lay end to end in a loaf tin. Think Gala pie!
2 eggs weighed
same weight as eggs in SR flour less 50 g
same weight as eggs in butter or Stork
same weight as eggs in caster sugar
1 1/2 tbsp milk
50 g cocoa powder
- Preheat the oven to 190c.
- Line a loaf tin with baking parchment.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
- Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Sieve together the flour and cocoa, fold into the mixture gently.
- Stir in the milk to slacken the mixture.
- Place half the chocolate batter into the base of the loaf tin.
- Put the hearts into the batter, point down and lined up to make a heart shaped log.
- Top with the rest of the batter, be careful not to move the hearts too much.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until well risen and a skewer comes out clean.
- Cool in the tin.
Slice and share with your Valentine. Hopefully this will be someone you love and not as in my case eight or so assorted high school teachers at a girls school in Surrey!
A long time ago, in the early 90s when I was young and foolish, I went to Sydney for a weekend break, well 3 days actually but not a long trip. During that time I packed a lot in. The opera house, the Rocks, Bondi and a visit to Doyles. I had more than my fair share of VB and came home with an addiction to Violet Crumbles and Tim Tams. Similar in style to a Penguin biscuit, but bigger and with a slightly malty flavour.
Australia Day on Saturday brought back all the memories of Sydney. The fact we had snow and hail here had me craving for some sun. I can do many things but changing the weather isn’t one of them. But I can travel via food. A good friend was making damper, why couldn’t I make Tim Tams?
I have made bourbon biscuits in the past so I had a recipe that perhaps I could adapt. Off to the kitchen to give it a go.
As you can see from the picture at the top of this post they worked really well, malty and moreish. I have yet to try a Tim Tam Slam with one of them as my mouth is currently numb from a visit to the dentist but this evening I will be!
Tim Tams (adapted from a Bourbon biscuit recipe from Larger family life.
225 g plain flour
25 g cocoa powder
1 tbsp malted milk drink (I used Horlicks)
1 level tsp baking powder
115g butter (softened)
115g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
100g softened butter
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp malted milk powder
200g milk chocolate
Set oven to Gas Mark 3/ 160°C/ 325°F
Sift together the cocoa, flour, malted milk powder and baking powder. In a separate bowl cream together butter and sugar. When nice and fluffy add the syrup. Add the mixture to the flour, cocoa and baking powder mixture then knead together. It may take a while to become doughy but keep at it and it will come together.
Take two layers of parchment paper. Place the ball of dough between the sheets of parchment and squish a little. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about ¼ inch.
Cut the dough into fingers, I use a ruler and sharp knife for this. I know, I know but it was actually rather therapeutic and it pays off when you sandwich the biscuits together. My finished biscuits are about 6cm long and 4 cm wide. Place onto parchment on a baking tray. Bake for approximately 17 minutes. Remove from oven . Leave in tray until almost cool, then transfer onto wire rack.
Beat together the ingredients for the filling, then use to sandwich biscuits together.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over barely simmering water. Remove the bowl from the pan. Dip the biscuit sandwiches into the chocolate until completely covered. Shake off excess chocolate. Place on a rack to cool and harden.
Once hardened, place in a tin, hide somewhere only you know about and scoff the lot. Alternatively provide nearest and dearest with a hot beverage and a tim tam.
Time for a Tim Tam Slam!
I am such a sucker for nostalgia. In the past I’ve had a go at making Tunnocks tea cakes and Bourbon biscuits. When I saw that this month’s Tea time treats challenge is citrus hosted this month by Karen at Lavender and Lovage. I knew I had to make my own jaffa cakes.
I use a BBC good food recipe, you can find it here. A word of warning the jelly is very concentrated and I needed to keep the bowl over a pan of hot water to get the jelly to fully dissolve, but that may be because I was making these in Narnia! I am not getting into the” are these cakes or are they biscuits” thing, all I know is they taste great, and home made ones taste even better.
Home made Jaffa Cakes – adapted from Simon Rimmer’s recipe.
- For the cakes
- 2 free-range eggs
- 50g/2oz caster sugar
- 50g/2oz plain flour, sieved
- For the filling
- 1 x 135g/4¾oz packet orange jelly, chopped
- 1 tbsp orange marmalade
- 125ml/4½fl oz boiling water
- 200g/7oz good quality chocolate, 100g milk, 100g dark
- For the filling, in a bowl, mix together the jelly, marmalade and boiling water until the jelly has dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Pour the filling mixture into a shallow-sided baking tray or large dish to form a 1cm/½in layer of jelly. Set aside until completely cooled, then chill in the fridge until set.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
- For the cakes, bring a little water to the boil in a pan, then reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the eggs and sugar to the bowl and beat continuously for 4-5 minutes, or until the mixture is pale, fluffy and well combined
- Add the flour, beating continuously, until a thick, smooth batter forms.
- Half-fill each well in a 12-hole muffin tin with the cake batter. Transfer the tin to the oven and bake the cakes for 8-10 minutes, or until pale golden-brown and cooked through (the cakes are cooked through when a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean.) Remove from the oven and set the cakes aside, still in their tray, until cool.
- When the jelly has set and the cakes have cooled, cut small discs from the layer of jelly, equal in diameter to the cakes. Sit one jelly disc on top of each cake.
- Bring a little water to the boil in a pan, then reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate and stir until melted, smooth and glossy, then pour over the cakes. Set aside until the melted chocolate has cooled and set.
Repeat after me, as they used to say in the advert, “Full moon, half moon, total eclipe!”
You know what it’s like. It gets to Twelfth Night and you are still ankle deep in Christmas. The tree is still up, the cards are curling at the edges and your children this Heroes and Quality Street are acceptable as breakfast. Apart from stripping the house clear of all things Xmassy I decided I had to do something about the food. It lingers on tables beckoning me to eat it. I really need no encouragement so I thought I’d use it up all at one go and then that would be that.
I already have a plan for the snacks and some of the smaller sweets. Compost cookies are brilliant and use up any last half bags of both sweet and salty snacks that have snuck back into the cupboard to go stale. Compost cookies are good and frugal too. Don’t bother adding any cheesey Wotsits or Skips. They are best flushed in my opinion! Here is the recipe for Compost cookies taken from one of my earlier Olympic foods posts.
As a teacher I am obliged to buy a bar of Toblerone annually. The box is a teaching aid when it comes to explaining the net of a Triangular prism. However the contents are more tricky, I have a whole 400g bar of Toblerone and I really can’t face eating it. Not after a jar of Quality Street, two tins of Heroes, a virtual Fort Knox of chocolate coins and the heads from several Lindt teddies.
You can’t give it away without the box but I can’t throw chocolate away. I needed to bake with it. If I could use up other chocolate leftovers all the better too. This isn’t a hard and fast recipe. If you don’t have 400g of chocolate then you can halve or even quarter the quantities below. Leave out the rice crispies and add more biscuit. It really depends what you still have knocking about and want to use up.
Toblerone Refrigerator cake.
400g Toblerone or other leftover solid chocolate bar
200g digestive biscuits – crushed
150g rice crispies
100g assorted chocolates and marshmallows cut up into chunks. (here you could use nut and raisin mixes, snipped up Newberry fruits, glace fruits, dates, the list is endless)
2 tbsp golden syrup
How to …
- Butter a large rectangular baking dish, mine is
- Melt the Solid chocolate bar, butter and syrup in a bowl over hot water.
- Snip up the small chocolates, jellies, dried fruit, coins, smarties etc into small pieces.
- Stir the crushed biscuits and rice crispies into the melted chocolate.
- Fold in the chopped up treats.
- Tip into the buttered dish and press down with the back of a spoon.
- Refrigerate until set.
- Cut into bite sized squares.
- Share with all and sundry.
- Do not buy any chocolate for at least 6 months!
I have decided to enter this into a new Blog link up Credit Crunch Munch run by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla at Fab food 4 all. I love the feeling that using up leftovers gives me. Almost as if I’m getting something for nothing. As nothing is all I have just after Christmas I need as many of these meals and ideas as possible.
You may or may not be aware that I work in a school. Such are the personal hygiene habits of many small children that during cough and cold season the air we breathe is more akin to a viral soup than an atmosphere able to sustain life. If Spock landed from the Enterprise and was surveying the atmosphere with his little box of tricks all the lights would turn to red and warning sirens would go off! Hardly surprising then that for the past three weeks I have had a rotten cold and last weekend finally succumbed to pneumonia. Fortunately for me the doctor prescribed a course of antibiotics each of which was the size of a small rodent and after a few days in bed I began to feel much more human. My lack of sense of small and taste completely knocked my baking mojo for six. I just couldn’t be bothered.
Finally, after a couple of days wrapped in a duvet I suddenly wanted to cook. An idea for a Christmas recipe had popped into my head and was refusing to leave until I’d tried it out. My mojo was back!
So, what had caused me to rise like Lazarus from my death bed? Mulled wine marshmallows, that’s what. Two of my most favourite things. I love a glass of mulled wine at this time of year and love snipping marshmallows into a cup of hot chocolate too. How could I combine the two? The thought of dropping marshmallows into mulled wine made me heave but what if I put the mulled wine into the marshmallow?
Mulled Wine Marshmallows.
Here is how I did it.
4 tbsp cornflour
4 tbsp icing sugar
- Oil a large gratin dish, mine’s 6″ by 12″ and fill with the icing sugar and cornflour mix. Set to one side.
- Place the sugar, liquid glucose and 6 fl oz of wine into a large heavy bottomed pan and slowly bring to the boil. Place the thermometer into the syrup and heat until it reaches 128c (hard ball stage). This will take several minutes.
- Whilst the syrup is heating take a tea cup and pour in the 4 fl oz of wine. Sprinkle over the gelatine and allow to swell up (also known as sponging!) Pop the teacup into a deep bowl, pour the boiled water from the kettle around (not in!!!) the teacup and leave to sit until the gelatine has returned to a liquid state.You can give it a stir if you need to.
- Check the syrup, when it reaches the correct temperature take off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Whisk in the liquid gelatine mixture a little at a time – it will foam up as you do this so take care – and pop to one side to cool a little. Don’t leave it too long or the gelatine will start to set!
- Whisk the egg whites to a soft peak and then continue whisking but add in the syrup slowly a little at a time. Continue to whisk until the whole of the syrup mixture has been added. Whisk on until the whole confection is stiff and thick. You need a pour-able mixture that leaves a thick ribbon like trail.
- Scrape into the foam into the prepared dish. Zest the orange over the setting marshmallows, rasp over a dusting of nutmeg. Rub the two cinnamon sticks gently together over the marshmallows and allow the small specks of cinnamon to fall onto the pink marshmallows.
- Set aside to cool before cutting. Overnight is good. Cut into squares and toss in the icing sugar/cornflour mixture still in the dish. Take half the marshmallows. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over barely simmering water. Dip the marshmallows into the chocolate and leave to harden on a sheet of baking parchment.
- Place the marshmallows in a clear gift bag, tie with a ribbon and share with a friend.
Due to my work commitments I wasn’t able to attend Let’s make Christmas. A wonderful idea started by Vanessa Kimbell. I was so fortunate to take part in the Ndali vanilla gift swap earlier in the year that I’d hoped to be part of the Christmas event especially as it was in The Rococo chocolate factory but sadly no. How wonderful then to be able to take part virtually.
I have also added this to the We should cocoa round up hosted by Chocolate log blog and chocolate teapot, as the ingredient is cinnamon. The cinnamon in my recipe isn’t in the chocolate itself but in both the mulled wine and the topping to the marshmallows before coating with the chocolate. I only hope this counts!
Firstly, may I apologise for neglecting Mintcustard. I have a book deadline on 30th November and I am putting all my culinary energies into that at the moment. However I really had to blog about a marvellous evening I spent in the company of some of the loveliest fellow food bloggers at the Waitrose cookery school, courtesy of Kenwood UK. Having been a Kenwood Chef family for decades, my Dad was a huge fan, I was pleased to be invited to have a sneek preview of the kMix Boutique range. Having recently won a raspberry kMix hand mixer for my vanilla tablet at the recent Ndali vanilla gift swap I was hoping to get some tips and ideas as to how best to use Mary the mixer. By the way,does anyone else name their kitchen appliances? She is Mary after Mary Berry of course.
I love the raspberry colour of my mixer but to see so many other options had me mentally redecorating my kitchen several times over in the evening just so I could have something from every colour-way!
Not only did we have the opportunity to look at and lust over these beautiful pieces of kitchen gadgetry we were able to try out the kMix stand mixer. As we were at the cookery school it made sense to use the facilities to learn a new skill. The trouble was, they were asking us to make my nemesis, macaron. I watch GBBO, I am an experienced baker. how hard can it be? The answer in my case was very hard. When I made macaron at home they were too runny, had no feet and really resembled flat almond pancakes rather than pert little buttons. Hmmm, now I wasn’t so sure it was a good idea coming. Luckily I put aside my concerns and the results were stunning. By using an Italian meringue as a base the results were wonderful. We all managed to produce macaron that would keep Mary and Paul coming back for more. Not a soggy bottom in sight. If we had a problem at all it was that we all needed to be braver with the food colouring, instead of brightly coloured disks to match the vibrancy of the new kMix range we all created very delicately hued pastel morsels. Not to worry, it is really the taste that matters the most. I can vouch for the fact that they tasted just wonderful.
The evening was great fun, but as I journeyed home on the tube carrying my box of macarons a very strange thing happened to me. It has only occurred at one other time in my life and that was during the Olympics and Paralympics. My fellow travellers engaged me in conversation. They weren’t drunk or even after a free macaron. They were genuinely interested in what I had made, how I had made them and if I was now going to enter the Great British Bake off! I did explain that the box contained the efforts of many but should you wish to chat to people on the tube carry a box of baked goods and someone is bound to want to have a natter.
Thank you to Kenwood UK for hosting the evening and inviting me. Mary the mixer and I will be cooking up a storm in the kitchen as we run up to Christmas. Hopefully if Santa (my husband) reads my Christmas list correctly and I’ve been good enough she and I will be joined by others. Namely the stick blender and the kettle! (hint, hint.)
My two daughters will tell you that putting their hair in plaits was the limit of my hairdressing skills. Some mothers could do a French plait, others did very tidy buns for dancing and one even did a zig zag parting and symmetrical bunches. I mostly provided them with a Croydon facelift straight into a pony tail.
What then possessed me to try and do an 8 strand plait for the latest Fresh from the oven challenge hosted Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and coordinated by Claire at Purely Food and Michelle at Utterly Scrummy? Only my competitive nature and the fact that a certain Mr Hollywood had made it look scary. I like a challenge. I’m not one to be defeated and if all else failed I’d still have a loaf of bread albeit one that looks like a bag of spanners.
I will admit that I love making all sorts of different yeasted bakes so the actual bread making part of this challenge wasn’t the problem. If I can make a crumpet or a chocolate Chelsea bun i can certainly make a simple loaf. It was the plaiting that was going to be the problem. Well, not exactly the plaiting, more like my inability to be beaten by anything or anyone. Perhaps a 4 or 5 strand plait might have been a more sensible place to begin but no I had to go broke.
Actually, it wasn’t bad at all. Along with my competitive nature is my need to know all the facts before I start. So I watched a video on YouTube before I made the bread and then used that and a set of written instructions I took from the video to make the plait. A little obsessive, yes, but as I said no lump of dough was going to beat me.
It seems my homework paid off. The dough behaved itself and allowed me to plait it without any problems. The resulting loaf was tasty and pretty, and Mary would have been pleased, no soggy bottom either!
Perhaps I should have done the same homework for the French plaits as i did for this loaf but I doubt the girls would have sat still long enough for me to have done them anyway!
Now I can do the plait want to make a real Chollah loaf. Perhaps that could be a future Fresh from the oven challenge?
Just a quick post to pass on the remaining recipes for the gifts I took to the Ndali gift swap. The butternut squash and vanilla jam is very sweet at first and then the lemon kicks in. Best on toast for breakfast. The cupcakes are, well, cupcakes, but they do look great cooked in the cone.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH & VANILLA JAM
900g butternut squash flesh
1 vanilla bean
4 3/4 cups sugar
juice of 2 lemons
large preserving pan
- Place the butternut squash in a pan with just enough water to stop it from catching, and cook over a moderate heat for 10-15 minutes until it is cooked through but still retains its shape. Drain off any excess juices, and when the squash is cool enough to handle, chop it into finer pieces.
- Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the blade of a knife. Place the squash, sugar, and lemon juice in a bowl, tuck the vanilla bean pieces in among the pumpkin, and add the seeds. Cover with a piece of cling film pushed down onto the surface and leave overnight.
- The next day, pour the contents of the bowl into a preserving pan and stir over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved, then turn up the heat and boil rapidly to reach jam setting point.
- Pour hot jam into hot sterilized jars.
The vanilla ice cream cupcakes are a version of the Mr Whippy cupcakes I made earlier in the life of Mintcustard. I replaced the flakes this time with the scraped vanill pod husks. The aroma when the cake box opened was so good!
So , I’m on a train on my way to London with cupcakes, vanilla butter tablet and a jar of still warm butternut squash and vanilla marmalade. I shall be returning with home made goodies created by others. As fair trade fortnight begins I’m off to a gift swap. I only hope my offerings stand up to those everyone else is bringing. I’ll post photos and the recipes for my gifts on my return.
I’m back from the gift swap. In fact, I’ve been back almost a week, but as this week contains a teenagers 18th birthday, a party for said birthday and three days of work this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and think straight.
Firstly I really must say a huge ” THANK YOU” to those who made the day happen. To Vanessa Kimbell, who runs a cookery school in Northampton, for her drive and enthusiasm that led her to organise the event. To the Fairtrade Foundation for their hard work to make sure all farmers get the best price for the product they grow. To Fortnum and Mason for providing the most sumptuous rooms in which the event took place. To Kenwood for providing prizes for the winning gifts. To the judges, Lucas Hollweg, Chantal Coady and the buyers from Fortnums, who put themselves at risk of a diabetic coma as they tasted mouthful after mouthful of confectionery. Most of all I want to say thank you to the farmers at Ndali vanilla for producing the most magnificent vanilla I have ever used. Thank you!
Well then, what did I make and take?
I took three things, vanilla cupcakes, butternut squash and vanilla marmalade and a jar of vanilla tablet. My kitchen smelt wonderful after my baking and making frenzy. Here are the recipes, not good at remembering to take photos sorry!
I’m starting with the Tablet as I’m very proud to boast that it was a runner up in the sweets category. Chantal was very complimentary about the flavour and texture of the tablet and I’m still both astonished and very chuffed!
150 ml whole milk
175g unsalted butter
800g fairtrade golden caster sugar (Sainsburys)
225g condensed milk
1 tsp ndali organic vanilla powder
(a jam thermometer is really useful)
A baking tin lined with parchment (17cm by 27 cm ish)
- The key to making a really crumbly, melt in the mouth tablet is time, patience and a strong arm to beat the living daylights out of the fudge as it sets! Enlist suitable help if you can’t manage it yourself.
- Put the sugar, milk, condensed milk and butter into a deep, heavy saucepan. Melt together over a low heat. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon all the time as you don’t want the mixture to catch and burn.
- Still stirring, slowly bring to the boil; the mix will by now be turning the colour of damp sand. Keep heating until you reach the soft ball stage. (116c)
- Remove the pan from the heat, place onto a heatproof surface and stir in a tsp of the vanilla powder. Now the hard work begins. Beat the fudge for between 5 and 10 minutes until the mixture becomes thicker, slightly grainy and lightens in colour. I put the timer on in 5 minute intervals so I don’t cheat!
- Pour the fudge into the prepared tin and allow to set. After about half an hour mark it into squares. Divide up later when cool and fully set.
- You can dip this in chocolate, add nuts or make a chocolate swirled version. I like to serve this as an alternative to petit fours with very strong espresso.
I would urge everyone to think as they shop. As your hand hovers to pick up an item just look left and right. If there is a product bearing the Fairtrade logo then please pick it up. The difference you will make to a farmer and their family will be immense.
I came back with the most wonderful swaps. My family are now demanding that I recreate them all asap. Looks like I will have to pop out and get some more vanilla. Now that is something I am very, very happy to do!
Nothing makes me happier than tracing my culinary DNA back through time and sharing the recipes and the food with others. As you may, or may not know, I am a retro gastronaut through and through. Some of you may have seen and possibly read my “School Dinners” cook book.
It appears I am not alone. Delicious Magazine in their September issue are running an article on the 70′s, Decade of guilty pleasures. I got the chance to contribute too. Now that made me feel very grown up! Looking on the Good Food website there is also an article on why this trend is happening. I have my theories. I think it is a combination of needing to be far more frugal. Many of us achieve this by using a small amount of good quality meat, possibly a cheaper cut and learning how to make something delicious from it. Brisket, slow roasted lamb shoulder, melting pork belly and of course the ubiquitous lamb shank. Equally we are being tempted by programmes such as the Great British Bake Off. They encourage us to revive our food memories. They haven’t yet invented Smellivision but I closed my eyes yesterday and I swear I coul smell both the eight plaited leaf baking in those ovens, as well as catching a faint whiff of fear as the knives were wielded by Paul and Mary. Short of importing Paul Hollywood into my kitchen…….. pause to imagine that! ……the only way to really experience the tastes we see on screen are to make the dishes for ourselves. This means for many of us going back to basics. Getting out our tried and trusted recipes and then free forming our own dishes when we become more familiar with the building blocks of good home cooking.
Very spookily Radio Oxford called me this morning to discuss exactly what I have written about here.
So my question to you is, what retro dishes have you had a hankering for recently. Have you added to an Arctic roll? Have you boiled a Baba? Would you consider tackling a tart? Me I have a list as long as my arm, now where is my Kenwood and the Tupperware bowl?
I’ll post a link to my radio interview later when it is up on iPlayer.